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Playing Pauper: Blue-Black Delver

It's time for another round of Playing Pauper, and this week our deck is Blue-Black Delver.

This deck falls into an interesting category. It plays counterspells and card selection so it looks like a control deck, but it also plays very little removal, while trying to slam an early 5/5 so it looks like an aggressive deck. What Blue-Black Delver is is a tempo deck. You stick a threat, such as a flipped Delver of Secrets or a Gurmag Angler, then you protect it with countermagic and disrupt your opponent with removal until you attack for the win.

Check out the matches first, then read the discussion below. If you enjoy Playing Pauper and other video content by MTGGoldfish, be sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube channel so you'll never miss any of our video series.

Blue-Black Delver Intro

Blue-Black Delver vs Mono Black Control

Blue-Black Delver vs Affinity

Blue-Black Delver vs Izzet Blitz

Blue-Black Delver vs Izzetron

Blue-Black Delver vs Burn

The Deck

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Besides the single copy of Stormbound Geist, all the creatures in the deck can be cast for a single mana. The plan is to cast one or two of these creatures for cheap, then protect them with countermagic. While Delver of Secrets is great on Turn 1, Gurmag Angler is the real star of the deck. Sultai Scavenger and Stormbound Geist exist primarily to increase the deck's creature count and not because they're incredible on their own.

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The amount of card selection in this deck is huge. Between milling, scrying, and shuffling, the deck is very good at drawing exactly the type of card it wants to draw. Gush is the only true card advantage spell, but breaking even on card parity is fine when you can sculpt your hand to include exactly the type of cards you want.

The main card selection technique in the deck is important to learn and is as follows: Use Ponder or Brainstorm to take good cards, then leave two cards worth of junk on top your deck. Next, get rid of those unwanted cards by milling them with Thought Scour or Mental Note, shuffling them away with Evolving Wilds or another Ponder, or scrying them off with Preordain.

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Counterspell is a great card. So great, in fact, that we're also running Deprive as a worse version of it. Running eight hard counters in our list makes it much easier to protect our threats from removal. Less important than the countermagic are some assorted removal spells the deck uses to help win damage races and force attacks through. Most notably, Agony Warp can sometimes do a good impression of Lightning Helix, which should give an idea of how powerful it can be.

The Sideboard

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First, we have different types of counterspells against different types of threats. Annul is good against Journey to Nowhere and Affinity decks. Dispel is great against opposing counterspells, and Exclude is a great way to generate card advantage in a grindy matchup.

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We have various removal spells depending on our opponent's creature suite. Agony Warp is good against aggressive decks where the -3/-0 half is relevant, Doom Blade is great against non-Black decks, and Shrivel can do wonders against tokens, Elves, and sometimes Goblins.

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Lastly, we have two cards that are good against control decks. Nihil Spellbomb can wipe out an opponent's graveyard while leaving ours intact, making it good against Flashback-heavy decks and Tortured Existence builds. Stormbound Geist is great against most non-aggressive decks, since removal that exiles isn't common in Pauper, and the Stormbound Geist will either provide a damage clock or draw two removal spells.

The Matchups

Between having no lifegain except Dismal Backwater and only seven removal spells, aggressive decks can really give Blue-Black Delver a hard time. Aggro decks just don't give you time to cast four cantrips before you start interacting. The upside is that if you resolve a Gurmag Angler with mana for a counterspell available, you can halt attacks from opposing creatures. The other upside is that Burn isn't that hard of a matchup since counterspells are good against decks that don't pressure you with creatures.

The deck shines against slower opponents. It takes only four turns of protecting a Gurmag Angler to kill an opponent, and resolving a turn 1 Delver of Secrets is great for pressing an early advantage.

Beating Blue-Black Delver

If you don't want to play this deck, but you do want to beat it, keep these tips in mind:

  • Try to cast two spells in a turn. It's not hard for them to counter one thing, but it's very rare for them to have four Blue mana and two counters in hand. You generally want to start with your less important spell first and tempt them into countering that.
  • If you have a creature with 4 or more toughness, many Blue-Black Delver lists have very few ways to remove it. Protect those creatures according and make sure they resolve.
  • Duress is an awesome sideboard card since it's a 1-mana card that gets rid of a counterspell. 
  • Don't go overboard with sideboarding in graveyard hate. While it will slow the deck down, it will not stop Gurmag Angler from eventually being cast.


I hope you enjoyed this look into such a unique Pauper deck. Blue-Black Delver offers an interesting middle ground for players who like both aggressive and controlling decks. It has room for innovation, namely what removal and card selection to include in the list.

Tell me what you thought about Playing Pauper this week! Tell me what you want to see in the future! You can drop me a note in the comment section below, the YouTube channel, or on Twitter @JakeStilesMTG.

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